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April 30, 2006 - Off the beaten path...













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Back in Rochester New York, the home of the Kodak Corporation, where the modern photographic industry was born, we used to joke that the movie industry ended up in southern California because, with all the sunshine, it's the world's largest soundstage, while the actual film industry stayed in Rochester, as it was the world's largest darkroom. Yes, it's often a dreary place.

When you're in Rochester you can visit the Eastman House. It's pretty cool. Out here, Eastman Kodak, the world's largest maker of photographic film, has always been a part of Hollywood. Of course the new home of the Oscars is the Kodak Theater at Hollywood and Highland. That's for the tourists. Where the real work is done is at Eastman Kodak's Hollywood campus down on Santa Monica Boulevard, where they have just under four hundred people who supply the movie industry with that they need. It's not on any Hollywood tour.

Here's how it looked April 14, 2006 - one of the rare rainy days in Los Angeles, when Hollywood looked a lot like Rochester.

Eastman Kodak Corporation, Hollywood

From Rick, the News Guy, in Atlanta –

 

I've always understood that, along with all that year-round sun out there, the other reason the movie industry moved to Southern California from New Jersey and Astoria on Long Island, or so the story goes, not from Rochester - was to escape Tom Edison's enforcement of his patents on the moviemaking process. Am I wrong?

 

Rick is right.

 

Yes, Thomas Edison was the problem, to which Hollywood was the answer.  September 4, 1888 - George Eastman patents first roll-film camera and registers "Kodak" (but see this - "Transparent, flexible film was actually invented and patented by Reverend Hannibal Goodwin in 1887 and in 1914 Eastman was sued for infringing that patent. Eastman was forced to pay five million dollars in cash as part of the settlement.")

 

1893 - Thomas Edison displayed 'his' Kinetoscope at the World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago and received patents for his movie camera, the Kinetograph, and his peepshow device. Edison also held the first public exhibition of films shot using his Kinetograph at the Brooklyn Institute.

 

Aqnd what led to Hollywood is explained here - 

 

The town itself was born of a real estate scheme; a local landowner named H. H. Wilcox began carving out plots from a parcel of Rancho La Brea land that he had purchased in 1886; his idea was that Hollywood would become a resort town for Midwesterners wintering in the desert. Movies didn't come into it at all; the birthplace of the motion picture is in Paris or West Orange, New Jersey, not California, and the commercial film would appear for another decade. The ideas behind pictures on a moving strip of film had been around for some time, with some machines allowing viewers at nickelodeons and penny arcades to individually see moving scenes, but it wasn't until the Lumiere brothers invented the "Cinematographe" camera and projection machine that the process was economical.

 

Thomas Edison and his staff had been experimenting with similar techniques for much of the 1890s, but their early invention, the Kinetoscope, produced films that only one person could watch at a time. The Cinematographe projected the image onto a large screen so that many people could watch simultaneously, and their December 28, 1895 exhibition of short films to a paying audience marks the birth of modern movies. (The Lumieres' device was used to film the first newsreel in Russia a year later.) A number of inventors caught on and began producing their own film-and-projection machines; an Edison employee named William Dickson left the Kinetoscope team to join one of the startups, the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company. Edison invented his own device and began producing his own films, including Edwin Porter's 1903 The Great Train Robbery, which introduced a number of leaps in visual storytelling.

 

Edison Films was soon eclipsed by Biograph, however. Although a brief film boom in vaudeville ended quickly, nickelodeons had become huge consumers of films, and American Mutoscope and Biograph was soon to hire D.W. Griffith and Florence Lawrence, revolutionizing the industry. Edison was unhappy about this and sued a rival movie company early as 1898; legal battles flared up between Edison and Biograph until 1907, when the courts found that Biograph held a valid rival patent to Edison's. As Biograph's camera was legal, Edison quickly switched tactics, offering to form a patent monopoly with Biograph and a few other companies. The Motion Picture Patents Company was thus formed, regulating the industry and offering licenses on the Edison and Biograph camera patents to any company that chose to film in the United States. The film scene at the time was filled with small startups, independent producers that chose not to join the "Edison Trust." Some of these producers felt they had valid European patents outside those controlled by the trusts; others, like William Fox, were simply unwilling to pay Edison and ran pirate operations. (William Fox was eventually to win the court battle that ended the Trust.) One of the independents was Carl Laemmle, a German immigrant who controlled a number of film studios, including IMP, the studio that turned Florence Lawrence into the first movie star, and Nestor Film. He decided to settle in a little town called Hollywood, California, on a ranch he bought and named "Universal City". The weather was good. The sunlight was strong year-round, an important consideration in an age of natural-light shoots. And it was an entire continent away from Edison's writ-servers.

 

Its most famous industry located there in an attempt to avoid the law. Its most famous icon is a glittering relic of failure. There's no native holly; there are no woods. They even stole the name; Daeida Wilcox, H.H. Wilcox's wife, got the name "Hollywood" from the summer home of a woman she met on the train.

 

Eastman sort of undermined the "Edison Trust" by selling film stock on the side to Carl Laemmle for his independent operations at Universal.  He didn't care, as you see here -

 

When Edison first introduced motion pictures in 1894, these were viewed by one person at a time. Edison was able to dominate the industry because of his patent on both the motion picture camera and viewing machine. By 1905, movie projectors allowed films to be viewed simultaneously by larger audiences; and Edison and a few others tried to continue their control of the market, again through their patents on the cameras, projectors, film, and other equipment.

 

In the early 1900s, the Supreme Court sanctioned both the Edison and Biograph patents on movie cameras. This lead to a series of patent infringement suits.

The situation was resolved in 1909 through a collective agreement and the establishment of the Patents Company which monopolized the industry. The Motion Picture Patents Company was a patent pooling agreement between the sixteen major players. Each producer had an exclusive arrangement with the Patents Company, and had to pay a royalty to it. Eastman Kodak, the sole supplier of film stock, collected the royalty. Exhibitors - or nickelodeon operators, as they were then called - signed exclusive contracts with the Company. When some competition did emerge, a General Film subsidiary was established to squelch it. [Note - There were some late challenges to this monopoly as in: U.S. v. Motion Picture Patents Co., 225 Federal Reporter 800 (1915).]

 

With the emergence of feature films, an exclusive distributing arrangement was created in 1914 under the name Paramount. This gave a dominant position to the production and distribution aspect of the industry; and exhibitors had to accept the terms dictated to them. The exhibitors responded by forming a group called The First National Exhibitors Circuit. Both of these groups - the producers-distributors on the one hand, and the exhibitors on the other - began to merge vertically. By 1925, only a few giant vertically integrated companies ruled the industry. With the coming of "talkies", Western Electric (a subsidiary of AT&T) dominated the audio end of the market, and the major film distributors began a practice of mutual cooperation which amounted to "a tacit form of shared monopoly." This was initially accomplished under the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, but continued even after the NIRA was ruled unconstitutional. Furthermore, the Webb-Pomerene Act allowed the industry to form an export cartel, the Motion Picture Export Association (MPEA). This organization continues to dominate the world film distribution market to this day even though the Act itself was repealed some twenty years ago.

 

By the late 1930s, the film industry was dominated by the Five Majors who were fully vertically integrated - that is, they controlled all three phases of the industry: production, distribution, and exhibition - together with three minor distributors. This pattern of vertical integration was combined with various price fixing practices to virtually exclude any independents from entering the industry. Beginning in 1938, this situation was attacked by the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department in what was known as the Paramount Case. Under various consent decrees with each company, the courts ordered vertical divestiture of exhibition from production-distribution. Competitive bidding was also suggested, although not mandated, to encourage open access in film exhibition.

 

There's a timeline hereAnd now you know.       

 































 
 
 
 
Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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